Theta Spring

Breathe Listen Change

Nervous Cough and Itching

          26 year old female struggles with a nervous cough and itching of her arms.


Presenting Problem

Serena is a 26 year old female who suffered a terrible loss of her father a few years prior to our first session. Shortly after his loss Serena developed horrible anxiety. When the anxiety became more consistent in her life it began to be accompanied by a cough in the back of her throat and nasal passage, along with the sensation of itchy arms. Having dealt with this issue for a number of years with no relief, including medications for anxiety, it finally took a toll on her body when she had her period for excess of 30 days. During the time she had her period for more than 30 days straight, the doctors were unable to determine any cause for her suffering. Serena finally decide she had no choice than to simply deal with her anxiety, itching, and cough on a daily basis until she had met me at a networking event. Open to the idea of hypnosis Serena came in for a total of three sessions and began to feel an incredible relief and improvement in her ailments after the first session.



During our three sessions together, Serena had noted that she had felt a sense of guilt and worry over the past 6 years following the death of her father. She felt a strong need to be there for her mother and take care of her despite her living thousands of miles away from her. There were a number of things following her fathers death that had caused Serena to worry about her mother and the excess stress that she had been experiencing. She felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility and tension that her mother wasn’t taking care of herself. Living so far from her mother, she felt that the best she could offer her was listening, but sometimes it made her feel that it wasn’t enough. However, upon discussing this issue with Serena she made the statement that sometimes people just need someone to listen to and listening can be as therapeutic, if not more, than offering advice that someone may or may not take. When thinking about her mother, or even her friendships in the place she had just moved to, she felt an overall sense of worry that she wasn’t being true to herself. There were multiple times she felt she wasn’t able to be herself and dreaded running into her friends when out. Upon coming back to where she lived after Christmas vacation, she had decided to filter her friends that made her feel worried or uncomfortable. This triggered a stronger response of worry and anxiety with her cough and itching. Simply thinking of all her anxiety would produce tension in her head.


While we discussed the presenting issues, Serena also mentioned that the idea of home was where her husband was. That being with him and in their home always made her feel a sense of comfort and relaxation. On a logical level, Serena was able to give herself great advice about how she would best cope with her anxiety and worry simply by taking a moment to herself and being in her favorite place in her home and focusing on something else. Regarding her mother, she came to the realization that while she wouldn’t be able to fix all the stressful things in her life, the best thing she could do was to be supportive of her mother and to listen.


Why this has occurred

When people experience traumas such as the loss of a loved one it can result in stress not being able to escape the body. Stress and worry when not allowed to be released can cause unwanted and severe body sensations and coping mechanisms to occur in the body. For Serena her coping mechanism became of a cough and arm itching. When looking specifically at body syndromes, such as her arm itching and cough, two syndromes are at play. When looking at the figure below the two areas of her body that are affected fall into the Head and Arm regions, resulting in the inability to express oneself or make decisions and inability or reaching for unobtainable, respectively. When stressors entered into Serena’s body it felt like a tickle in her throat and itchiness on her arms. What had once been a coping mechanism, slowly became a subconscious reaction to dealing with worry and stress.


Method of treatment

It was determine through our first session that Serena didn’t feel much like discussing the loss of her father directly and that she was more concerned with the anxiety that was constantly occurring in her life. Since she felt embarrassed and insecure about her body actions, the first step in treating her symptoms was to introduce Serena into the hypnotic state and have her get in touch with what it feels like to be calm and relaxed the way she is when she is in her favorite place. Once in the deeply relaxed state of hypnosis positive suggestions for overall wellbeing and comfort were given, specifically identifying how the body, arms, shoulders, and head feel when they are allowed to just focus on the calmness around.


In addition to producing the deeply relaxed state of wellbeing, it was important to give Serena a tool that she could use when she felt the anxiety and worry coming. An Anchor was provided to Serena that acted as a stop mechanism for the unwanted reactions of itching and coughing. Specifically, focusing on relaxation moving through her head (relieving head tensions), her arms (specifically alleviating itchiness), and throat (relieving the tickle in the back of her throat).


Serena identified strong with the idea of being a mother and loved being around children. In order to tap into what Serena may need in order to deal with her stress on a deeper level, inner child work was conducted, helping her identify the things that she could give her inner child in order to alleviate the symptoms that were already beginning to go away after our first session.


Our last session dealt directly with additional relaxation technique that would provide an alternative form of internal healing. By discussing the soothing nature of water, how its calming, relaxing, and soothing, while in hypnosis and bringing up the sensation of worry and stress, we would use taking a sip of water as a mechanism for gaining relief. Through feeling the cool water run through her mouth, throat, and body she would begin to feel the internal benefits of the “water of life” which would heal her from the inside out. During this session, Serena exhibited numerous releases of stress and tension as seen through her body becoming even more and more relax, with deep exhales and slight smiles throughout the session.




To date, Serena has almost fully recovered from her symptoms of anxiety, coughing, and itching.



Presenting Problem

Dana* is a 57 year old female who has always struggled with her weight, but until a few years ago had been relatively in control of eating. Shortly after the death of her husband, Dana started to have urges to stop for food while driving. Dana had never been someone who was in love with food. In fact, she has food allergies that have her on a relatively restrictive diet. Despite knowing the adverse reactions of her allergies to certain foods, her ability to curb her subconscious ghost appetite while in the car became excessively out of control. Once in the car her mind would begin to plan out where and when she would stop on her way home. In almost all instances, Dana would stop for foods that were considered unhealthy or poor food choices for her health. Realizing her eating in the car was becoming out of hand, and having tried everything else in her power to stop this unwanted feeling while driving, Dana decided to try hypnosis.**

* To protect the confidentiality of the client her name has been replaced with an alias.

** Prior to working with Dana we had a phone consultation it was noted that the idea of “therapy” was something she hadn’t wanted to do, but hypnosis was something she was open to trying. Thus, it was important to coin my role as a hypnotist rather than a hypnotherapist.

Background Information

During our initial discussion, Dana had mentioned that she was interested in weight loss. Upon further discussing the weight loss program it became evident that Dana was not as concerned with her weight as she was with being in control of her eating habits. A few key factors came into play when discussing her eating habits with her and included the following:

  • Dana was on a relatively restrictive diet due to her various food allergies
  • She felt out of control while driving due to her consistent need to stop for food in the car despite  not being hungry.
  • Over eating during meals despite being full
  • Her relationship with food always felt in excess or abundant despite not really ever loving food

In the past Dana had tried dieting, food plans, and programs with minimal success. However, one particular program she had been on a number of years ago had been relatively successful, but without sustainability. While on this food program, Dana began to feel a sense of accomplishment and drive she hadn’t felt before, and gave her a sense of being in control, ability to sit back during  meals and enjoy the company she was with, and have a sense of pride of stopping eating when feeling full while she watched her friends at the table continue to eat despite reaching their capacity. Despite not having stuck with this program, it was a time in her life when she had felt in control of food.

In Dana’s adult life she had always been a caregiver to her sick mother and then later in life to her husband. She always identified herself as someone who was giving of her time and an extremely good caretaker. However, what Dana felt she fell short on was taking care of her.

Having identified a number of areas that Dana felt she fell short, a plan of action was prepared that would aid Dana in creating the changes she wanted in her life. Specifically:

  1. Being in Control of Food
  2. Stop Eating Food in The Car
  3. Stop Eating When Full

Why This Occurred

From a young age Dana has mentioned that her family had a distorted view of food amounts. Growing up Dana was always served large portions of food, and during meals, holidays, and family dinners the idea that there had to be “plenty” and “large portions.” This way of eating and preparing for meals, parties, or holidays became a known association Dana’s subconscious. Dana had never been deprived of food, but having “just enough” or “not enough” was never an option.

The second subconscious association that Dana made was that eating was a social event. Going out to meals meant seeing friends and having good conversations and fun. Thus, scheduling time with her friends meant going out for a meal.

An additional, association occurred shortly after her husband’s death, which was stopping for food while in the car driving. It is unclear how this association was born. However, it is suspected that it was easier to start planning out her meal (which was identified as social) in the car than to be left thinking about going home to her apartment alone. Food slowly became a comfort, and a distraction of thinking about the loss of her husband.

Method of Treatment

Over a course of three sessions, Dana and I would work on the following 3 presenting issues:

  1. Being in Control of Food
  2. Stop Eating Food in The Car
  3. Stop Eating When Full

The initial session would deal directly with the idea of putting herself back in control. Specifically, understanding her body, her triggers that caused her unwanted eating response, and being aware of the negative affects that allergic foods have on her body.

Being a strong visual learner, Dana was put into the hypnotic state and asked to go to a place that meant relaxation for her. While building this visual picture, we tapped into all the physical feelings that relaxation meant. Once fully relaxed, I wanted Dana to identified with a time in her life that she had felt success with food, and to bring up all the confidence she had felt at that time and bring them forward into the moment. Once Dana had tapped into those feelings, we developed a beautiful new path to success with food in her place of relaxation. A path that meant being in control of food, motivation, making good food choices, and taking care of herself. These motivations and feelings were rationalized with the wants of her conscious mind and why she had chosen now to create these changes in her life and how she would feel in the future after creating these positive changes.

Once directly taped into her motivations, wants, and feelings of control and relaxation, desensitization of each trigger response for eating was addressed. These included:

  1. Eating while in the car
  2. Over eating at restaurants
  3. Eating when not hungry in the house
  4. Eating foods that were poor food choices

Dana had wanted to increase her knowledge while in hypnosis that she always had time to cook. This meant that while being in the car she could re-focus on what she would stop for at the supermarket to cook or eat instead of which fast food restaurant she would stop at.

Over eating was addressed through understanding her stages of hunger and identifying the point at which she was almost full as a time to stop eating. Positive suggestions to elicit this response were given, as well as bringing up the potential negative path she could take of continuing to eat and how it could feel if she continued to over eat.

Eating out of boredom and eating poor food choices were desensitized by allowing her mind to refocus on other tasks. An anchor of hearing “NO,” “you can do this,” “yes you can,” and “you’re ok” as well as, visualizations of putting all her bad food into garbage bags and dragging them out to the dumpster were given. Once ‘trashing’ her bad foods and unnecessary cravings for them she would move forward on a light and bright path of success feeling confident and in control of her life and food she chooses to eat.

An additional suggestion of Dana referring to herself as her own caregiver was also suggested during a hypnotic session. Prior to entering into the hypnotic state on our third session, Dana had mentioned that she never identified with being her own caregiver. However, when presented with the visualization and suggestion in hypnosis she was receiving of the idea. In fact, she had a visualization of her as a child and taking care of herself from that point forward in making good and healthy food choices, as well as knowing she was always in control of food.


Within our first session of working together Dana, who had once been slightly skeptical of how easy creating these changes would be, began to feel immediate relief in the car while driving. The positive suggestions of our work together began to manifest through her life and within the first 2 weeks Dana had lost 4 pounds. After our first session, she stated that she had no idea how easy creating the changes could be, and that each session helped to reinforce her positive associations so that they no longer felt like fragile parts of her life, but rather changes that would last a lifetime.

Case Study: Fear of Public Speaking


Presenting Problem

David was a business school student studying at one of the top MBA programs in the country. He was a solid student, head of a school club, and had an active social life that balanced nicely with his professional and academic one. While David was on the road to being groomed as a future executive, he became more and more aware of the anxiety that accompanied him during public speaking. Simply preparing for a talk would begin to cause an adverse reaction in his body that included sweating, increased heart rate, tightness in his chest, sweating, butterflies in his stomach, and an overall uncomfortable feeling. David realized that given his goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur, his career would lead him to speak in front of large groups of people. In addition, he would have to pitch his ideas to board members, top executives, and investors.  Despite the idea of having to do these things caused him to be excited, execution of delivering the talks caused an unwanted response. Having heard me discussing the fear of public speaking with a friend of mine, he approached me to discuss his case further.

Background Information

David was always a good student, and pursued his academic undergraduate studies at a competitive college in Boston, Massachusetts.  While in college David made the realization that he was attending, what he considered, an extremely eliteuniversity where competition would be fierce and numerous smart and talented students would surround him. From this realization, David strived to stand out and be different, and thereby increased his competitiveness in order to achieve his goals.

During his undergraduate career, David was in class he was commenting on material that they had been studying when he lost his thought mid sentence. Immediately he was unable to concentrate, calm his mind, and bring himself back to what he was initially discussing. David, eventually pardoned himself, and the class resumed their discussion without the pertinent information David was unable to provide.  From that moment, David began to feel a sense of incompetence in public speaking. He made the association that from losing his train of thought people would think he was not smart. As a result of this incident, before public speaking David would begin to feel anxious, nervous, or hesitant instead of feeling focused, prepared comfortable, or at ease.

David’s goal in working with hypnosis was simple:

                        Be relaxed before public speaking

 Method of Treatment

Before meeting with David I had him provide me with a handwriting sample. This sample was prepared on a blank sheet of paper with no lines, no margins, and no requirements other than to write about how he would like hypnosis to help him and then to sign the document.

It should be noted that during the review of handwriting analysis, the document is not read for content until after a series of analysis has been done upon the printed text itself. Upon reviewing the document, I noticed that David had been dotting his “i” not directly over the stem of the letter, but rather over the following letter or even the one two letters down. One particular place this was seen was on the wordspeaking. On the word speaking, David had actually dotted the “g”.  One other pertinent element of his handwriting sample that stood out immediately was his signature. David only signed his first name with a squiggle line and two hash tags under it, as shown here:

When discussing his sample with him he stated that he did this on all his documents, whether for school or business.  When a person signs only their first name it is an indication that they have a strong urge to be seen as an individual. What was interesting that we discussed after I mentioned this fact, was that David was in fact an identical twin. While he loved his brother, he was in constant struggle to be seen as unique rather than identical. The underlining scribble below his name, is an indication that David was money driven. That he valued money in his life, and through his drive to be unique he would also feel this compensation through monetary value as a scale of worth.

In order to move forward with helping David move past his fear of public speaking, it was necessary to ask David how he wanted to feel before and after his talk. In our sessions we worked directly with large group talks rather than small group discussions or class work. David outlined the following:

Goals: Feel relaxed before public speaking, and to be ready for “start up weekend” which is a large conference where entrepreneurs come together to discuss their ideas. David would be going there to pitch his idea as well.

In a perfect situation Davids days and moments before his talk would go as follows:

  1. Prepare to the best of his ability before the talk
  2. Wake up the morning of the talk feeling prepared that he had studied, rehersed, and was confident in the information he would be providing
  3. Feel refreshed from a good night sleep
  4. Get excited about the knowledge he would be bestowing on the group of people he was presenting to
  5. Having arrived at the talk, he could get on stage and “own it” (being in total control with a plethora of information)

When he asked if he had any advice for friends of his that had similar issues with public speaking he stated that some of the best ways to prepare and be ready were to:

  • Practice speaking by yourself
  • If you become flustered while on stage that you can take a breath and simply move on to the next topic
  • Relax
  • That even though there are more people in the audience its no scarier than being in front of a small group of people.

David and I also did some word associations with the term “anxious.” When David was asked to state five synonyms for the word anxious he stated the following:

  1. Nervous
  2. Hesitant
  3. Lack of confidence
  4. Scared
  5. Tepid

All of the above feelings, goals, and perfect execution would be addressed through one session of systematic desensitization while in hypnosis.

The key to success for replacing a feeling of anxiety or nervousness is to get in touch with the counterbalancing feeling of relaxation while in hypnosis. Since relaxation and anxiety can not coexist, it was important for David to feel the state of deep relaxation so that when he felt anxious he would be able to replace it with a feeling of relaxation. Davids visualization of relaxation was the beach. Once he had focused in on all the sense of what the beach provided when thinking about relaxation we were able to move forward with our systematic desensitization of public speaking.

Still in hypnosis, David was asked to bring up the positive feelings associated with the information he would be presenting to his group during a public speech. He was asked to get in touch with his knowing he was smart, prepared, able to produce any information on the spot because he studied hard, was a bank of information, and he was well practiced. Once in touch with his preparedness, David was asked to visualize step by step the process of waking the morning of the talk, feeling prepared, excited, and relaxed. While watching David his body was extremely calm until moments before getting onto the stage in his visualization. His hands became to fidget, thus indicating that he was having an abreaction dealing with his reaching for a goal that seemed relatively unobtainable at the moment. David was asked to take a deep breath and move past that feeling of anxiety and replace it with a feeling of deep relaxation. The key to Davids success for overcoming his fear of public speaking was to allow his subconscious to know that he was providing the audience with very important information. This became a driving force behind his visualizations and later in his actual public speaking.

Having desensitized David to the anxiety around public speaking, we also conducted a series of leaving those feelings in the past. That his fears had once served a purposed, but no longer were needed to continue forward with him on his path. Since David had a strong ability to visualize, he was asked to walk through the door of his subconscious to see this fear in the corner of the room. He was able to destroy this unwanted characteristic leaving him with only a small souvenir he could bring with him as a reminder of his overcoming his fear.


David did go to the start up week conference and was able to deliver his speech without any anxiety or fears. He was able to bring up his feelings of relaxation and increase his excitement about all the information he would be “bestowing” to the crowd of people.




Presenting Problem

Amanda* came into my office stating that she would like to overcome her fear of fruits. Upon further discussing the presenting problem Amanda had stated that she knew the nutritional benefits that fruit provided, but despite her best efforts, she couldn’t bring herself to try them.  Amanda has always been a relatively healthy eater, conscious of what she puts into her body, and exercises on a regular basis. In fact, Amanda had recently done a half marathon. Having lived with this strong dislike of fruit, Amanda finally came to the rationalization that she wanted to change that. Her goals in regards to dealing with this issue were as follows:

  • Be able to try fruit without the anticipation of disliking it
  • Being able to try a fruit that her friends say was the best fruit they have ever had
  • To have pride and bragging rights that she tried something new
  • To be able to make an unbiased opinion on whether she liked fruit based on her experience


When Amanda was a baby, her mother had brought her on an airplane after having fed her fruit. While on the plane, Amanda had an extreme case of diarrhea that her mother attributed to the fruit she had just fed her. From that moment forward, Amanda’s mother decided that fruit wasn’t something that settled well in her stomach and never fed her that food.

As Amanda grew up she also made a subconscious association that fruit would cause a negative reaction in her body, despite never having had a bite of fruit. Thereby, resulting in her inability to eat fruit. Later in life she developed an urge to want to try fruit. And even though her friends would tell her that they were eating the best apple they had ever had that they had picked while in an apple orchard, Amanda would get the apple inches from her mouth and not be able to take a bite. Despite her logic, willpower, and reasoning she could not break this fear.

Why this has occurred

From the moment we are born, we begin learning by process of association. These associations, whether positive or negative, become stored in our subconscious mind as “knowns.” These knowns help us react in daily life, and can instinctually drive our behaviors. When Amanda’s mother made the decision to not feed her fruit again, she began the process of creating the association that fruit causes an adverse reaction in the body. While Amanda had never actually experienced the adverse reaction, it was already planted in her subconscious mind as a known. This association became stronger and stronger the more she declined trying to eat fruit. As Amanda became older, she had a realization that she no longer wanted to carry with her this fear. She wanted to be able to decide for herself if she like fruit or not. However, when your subconscious mind (which harbors all our known associations) accounts for nearly 90% of our mind, her conscious mind (which is our logic, reasoning, willpower) couldn’t win over a lifetime of not eating fruit. With this misalignment between Amanda’s conscious and subconscious, her strong drive to change, and having set goals and an understanding of the benefits fruits could be in her life, hypnosis became an option for helping her create these changes.

Method of treatment

When discussing the treatment of a case like Amanda’s, its important to differentiate the fears and phobias. Fears occur when there has been a traumatic even such as being bitten by a dog. Phobias occur when nothing directly associated with the fearful reaction has occurred to spur such a reaction. Generally, people who state they have a fear of flying have never been in a plane crash. Therefore, this fear is in fact a phobia of flying.

In order to help Amanda, it was important to determine which fruit she felt was the most offensive and which was the least. She stated that the idea of eating an orange was unbearable because it was juicy and sticky, while the idea of an apple seemed ok.

Step one in this process was to find out what the end result of our session would be, and what motivating factors were behind it.

End Goal: be able to eat a piece of fruit without fear or anxiety.

Motivating factors:

  • Being able to try a fruit that her friends say was the best fruit they have ever had
  • To have pride and bragging rights that she tried something new
  • To be able to make an unbiased opinion on whether she liked fruit based on first had experience
  • Adding new snack opinions to her life

Having set up the end results, working toward them would be a process of systematic desensitization to her fear, as well as, creating a new association towards fruit in her subconscious.  I asked Amanda, in an ideal situation, “if you woke up tomorrow morning not having a fear of eating an apple (since this was her least offensive fruit) how would you go about eating it?”

Amanda stated the following (however, it should be noted at this point she was skeptical this could even happen):

  1. Peel the apple
  2. Slice it into pieces
  3. Dip the apple into a little caramel
  4. Try the apple
  5. If she didn’t like it, she would simply be pleased she tried it and move on with her day
  6. If she liked it she, would have another bite
  7. Each subsequent bite would have less caramel, until it was just the apple she was tasting
  8. Later she would be able to tell her friends she tried an apple with a new sense of pride, even if it was something she chose not to eat again.

After putting Amanda into hypnosis, we systematically had her visualize the process described above. At any point that she exhibited an abreaction or resistance, we would bring her back to the state of relaxation moving past any residual fears or resistance she may have had. While the goal was not to have Amanda love fruit, simply having her indifferent to the experience of trying it was important. The choice to like or dislike fruit was up to her.

After the first bite with the caramel, Amanda was asked if she would like to have another bite or if she was satisfied with having tried the apple, but had made the unbiased decision she didn’t like it. Amanda took more and more bites, each time lessening the amount of caramel on the apple till there was none.

Feeling pleased with her ability to visualize this happening we were able to create a new association in the subconscious mind. This was further enforced through visualizations of brag to her friends that she had broken a life-long pattern. That now she can partake in “the best apple” her friends had ever had.


Amanda went home that night and ate an apple just the way we had visualized in our session and has since been adding new fruits to her food choices.



Presenting Problem

Becky had been driving for approximately 30 years and had never been in a car accident or traumatic experience involving cars, highways, or driving. She is a mother of 5, spiritual, and is constantly on the move going from one place to the next while also running a business from home. However, one day Becky developed a fear of driving on highways, over bridges, and through tunnels. While driving, the pressures of trucks bearing down behind her, people speeding, and the idea of going over a bridge or tunnel became a looming sense of dread. Becky had seen my name in a paper and decided to give hypnotherapy a try. Her goals were simple: be able to feel as comfortable on the highway as she did on streets around her neighborhood.


A couple of years ago, she and her husband decided to sell one of their two houses, which ended up being an additional stressor in her life. During the period of selling her house, Becky would have to drive between the two houses which entailed a good amount of highway driving and over bridges. Having been able to suppress her anxiousness for a while, everything came to a head one day while driving with her husband. Distraught, Becky pulled to the side of the road in order to have her husband drive. Although Becky has been able to drive on the highway, it’s an extremely unpleasant situation and resulted in a fear of highway driving, as well as, a fear of going over bridges and tunnels. The idea of driving became a feeling of doom resulting in an increased heart rate, tension in her shoulders, and overall sense of dread. Certain things, such as talking to her friend on her phone while in the car would help, but nothing Becky tried helped to alleviate her symptoms completely. Her fear caused her to find longer routes to the destinations she and her family would drive to in order to avoid long stretches of highways or bridges and tunnels. She would constantly try to avoid having to carpool with other families in the area, in fear that she would have to drive on the highway. Her fear was starting to adversely affect her life even though she consciously knew that she was a safe driver.

Why this has occurred

During the period of selling her two houses, Becky was experiencing an excessive amount of stress. Driving between the two houses was an added amount of responsibility that in turn took its toll on her via an anxiety attack while driving with her husband.

Its important to note that when the body is dealing with things that cause us worry or feelings of insecurity, our primitive minds turn on the fight or flight response. However, in modern day society those reactions are typically inappropriate and we therefore, have created alternative methods for dealing with these emotions. Thus, resulting in stress, anxiety, and depression. These emotions when not given release mechanisms can turn inward on the body causing undiagnosable pain in various parts of the body. Pains that we call Body Syndromes.

When Becky was asked about her anxiety regarding driving, and where she felt tense, she stated that she could feel her shoulders tensing up, palms sweating, and heart rate increasing. When Becky stated that she had tension in her shoulders, she also noted that after driving on the highway or stopping thinking about driving on the highway, this tension dissipated. This particular body syndrome of the shoulders relates directly to the idea of excessive responsibility.

Bridges for Becky meant increased anticipatory anxiety. The feeling of driving on a bridge felt similar to an oncoming anxiety attack. When described the process as driving upward toward something you cant see and that as she drove up to where the bridge plateaued it was like increasing her anxiety level tenfold. Tunnels were also particularly hard for Becky. The idea of pulling into a two lane tunnel, feeling as if the tunnel could go on forever, and feeling the person behind her gave Becky an added sense of dread. Even looking in her rearview mirror made her anxious.

Once Becky had finally come to terms with the fact she had a fear of highway driving, she had a discussion with her mother about it who told Becky that she had the same fear. Her mother, as she later realized, had never been the driver in the family. Her father was the one consistently driving the family around. This admission from her mother made Becky realize that she no longer wanted to have this irrational fear and dread of highway anxiety. This is what led Becky into my office.

Method of treatment

In our first session, it was important for Becky to set a clear goal about what she wanted to accomplish. For her it was being able to drive on the highway, over bridges, and through tunnels without the feeling of dread. Her motivations included being able to drive to her college reunion, being able to drive her children around, and imagining being able to drive on highways to amazing places on her family vacations without having to take the backroads in order to avoid tunnels and bridges. She no longer wanted to have this irrational fear control her.

Having set the end goal and motivations, we discussed what her idea of relaxation is. For Becky, it was being on a beach right at sunset. This visualization for her was an extremely important part of her therapy. By having Becky visualize herself on the beach, feeling the sand between her toes, the smell of the fresh ocean air, the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach, and the amazing views and colors that accompany sunset, we were able to reinforce the feeling and idea of what relaxation feels like, looks like, smells like, etc. We determined how she feels about highway driving now, and how she would like to feel.

Before placing Becky into the hypnotic sleep, she was asked “in an ideal situation, how would you like to go about driving on a highways?”

Her answer was this:

  1. Get into the car put on my seatbelt
  2. If my children are in the car I just want to be able to listen to them and enjoy their company
  3. Pull out of the driveway into the street feeling calm and relaxed
  4. Drive to the highway
  5. As I pull on the ramp, I want to feel calm and comfortable as I increase speed
  6. To be unsuggestible people who are speeding and trucks that are passing me
  7. To continue to drive feeling calm and relaxed and excited about where we are going and who we are seeing when we get to our location

Becky was placed into a state of deep relaxation and asked to build the visualization of being on her favorite beach. Each of the five senses of being on the beach were tapped into causing Becky’s entire body to relax despite her nervousness prior to entering the hypnotic sleep. As she built this visualization in her mind, noticeable releases of tension were noted through physical relaxation in her body, deep relaxing sighs, and a noticeable lowering of her shoulders.

With Becky in a deep state of relaxation that was tied to a place that incorporated all of her senses, the process of systematically desensitizing her to highway driving was done through her step-by-step process outlined about. As Becky was asked to get into the car, the moment she placed her hands on the steering wheel she was asked to feel the same relaxation she felt on the beach. The suggestion that each time she put her hands on the steering wheel, she would feel a deep relaxation state of being in control. Becky is a spiritual person and believed deeply in her guardian angle. While she was backing out of the driveway in her visualization, she was asked to feel a sense of comfort and safety knowing that her guardian angel was there with her. Additional positive affirmations, ones that Becky had told me prior to hypnosis, were given to her while she was visualizing driving. Affirmations such as ‘you are a good driver’ and ‘you have been driving for 30 years’ were given to her as well to increase her confidence as she drove down the side streets toward the highway.

When Becky was asked to imagine that she was pulling onto the highway she had what was called an abreaction. Abreactions are movements of the body while in the hypnotic state indicating that the client is sensing something that is making them uncomfortable. Each person can exhibit different reactions. Becky started to have increased breathing and a noticeable tension presented itself in her shoulders. When increase tensions arise, the client was asked to go back to the state of relaxation by visualizing or imagining being on the beach. As Becky allowed herself to go back to the state of relaxation, we also incorporated an anchor that would allow Becky to have an added tool in helping her deal with any residual tensions in the following days. While in hypnosis, Becky was given the tool that when she felt the dread of highway driving starting, she would simply place both hands on the wheel, take a series of deep breaths and begin to think about being back on the beach. Special attention was given herself permission to relax her shoulders.

Simply being able to bring up feelings of anxiety, visualizing driving opens a doorway or having a client visualize what it feels like to also be relaxed while driving. The two conflicting emotions cannot coexist together. Thus, feeling calm and relaxed is a much more pleasing state of being to a person then a state of anxiety. Through this practice of desensitizing Becky to each step in the process of overcoming highway driving, she was able to replace her fear with one of relaxation. These new associations where made stronger each and every time Becky utilized her tool of placing her hand on the wheel and taking in a deep breath and saying ‘thank you subconscious for alerting me that something feels wrong, but now I am in control and can take it from here.’

An additional part of the treatment plan was allowing Becky to know that if this feeling of anxiety were to present itself, that she had options. When a client is able to know that there are options to help alleviate the symptoms an increased sense of motivation can occur. Becky had dictated a list of these options to me prior to putting her into the hypnotic sleep and was given back to her while in the hypnotic sleep. Simply stating that if she felt anxious, she had the option of turning on music, calling her friends, or simply just partaking in a conversation in the car would also help to allow her to become more relaxed and de-focus on the feeling of anxiety. However, it was also important to allow Becky that as of the first session, she would no longer be suggestible to dread of highway driving. Because ‘today, she chose a new path of life’.

In our second session, we worked more directly on eliminating the dread that accompanied bridges and tunnels. Since her last session, Becky had driven on the highway twice and felt a great deal of relief. She noted specifically that when she was getting anxious she would use her tools and immediately feel her shoulders release.

Desensitization to bridges and tunnels would be done in a very similar fashion from our first session. Becky was asked to describe the process of what driving over a through a tunnel was like and how she wanted to feel. Each step of the process was done replacing any fear with a deep state of relaxation that was brought on in the first part of the hypnotic sleep. Becky was given the suggestion that as she accelerated on the bridge going up (the worst part of driving on a bridge for her) to imagine that as she pressed the gas peddle she could imagine she was pressing her foot into the sand and she could feel the sand beneath her feet. Upon approaching the top of the bridge, Becky had stated that she wanted to be excited of the amazing view from there and that the remaining portion of the bridge would be simply “gliding down” as she descended back onto the highway. The suggestion that the bridge was simply a connector between two places was also given.

For driving through tunnels, Becky was reassured as she entered the tunnel, that the tunnel would end. It was simply a matter of staying calm, relaxed, in control, and unsuggestible to the person driving behind her, which was something that increased her anxiety. She was worried that she wasn’t driving fast enough and the person would then tailgate too close causing her to look in her rearview mirror and stress. While in the tunnel, similar suggestions of feeling relaxed and visualizing the beach were given, her tools of hands on the wheel and feeling in control were reinforced, and moment in the tunnel would soon be over and she would be one step closer to reaching her exciting destination.


After our first session Becky felt immediate relief and was able to drive on the highway without bringing up the feelings of dread. Our second session aided in further reinforcing the new associations and now Becky is back driving on the highway of life.




Presenting Problem


Victoria* had been flying since she was a child until one day in her early twenties she started having severe anxiety about flying. Victoria had never been in a plane crash, had an emergency landing, and until this point had been unscathed about watching movies and TV shows that had plane crashes in them. When discussing her fear of flying Victoria noted she had been on a flight that had some turbulence, but nothing too severe that she would think it would have caused her to develop a fear of flying. Additionally, the tragedy of 911 aided in Victoria’s fear.


Despite Victoria’s fear of flying, her travels plans were not stifled. Having accepted her fear as something that was insurmountable, Victoria turned to taking the bus to her destinations. What could have been a 3-hour plane ride, was now a significantly longer bus ride. In fact, when her sister got married outside of the States, Victoria arrived at the airport, and was unable to board the plane. Her fear had taken control of her emotions, and without the option of taking the bus over the ocean, Victoria had to forgo being in attendance for her sisters wedding. In fact, her choice to take buses to go place wasn’t swayed when he bus was held up at gunpoint. Even knowing that flying is one of the safest ways to travels, hearing numerous statistics on the benefits and safety of flying, and all the options of where planes can take you, Victoria refused to get on a plane.

 Her anticipation of even getting on a plane, buying a ticket, or thinking about the increased security that had resulted after 911 caused he severe distress. For Victoria, it was simply easier to just not fly.

 Knowing her fear was something that was only getting strong, she frequented online chat rooms, participated in discussions with people, and even did research on programs that could help her with her fear of flying. Unfortunately, what Victoria gained from these chat rooms, discussions, and programs was a sense that having a fear of flying was a normal phenomenon. It wasn’t until ten years after developing her fear of flying that she came to me to discuss the possibility of using hypnosis to help.

Why it occurred

Since nothing had directly occurred on a plane ride that Victoria had been on, I asked Victoria if she could remember if she had eaten on her last plane ride when she could remember the turbulence occurring. Victoria wasn’t sure, but she remembers not being a consistent eater of breakfast. What may have happened, and is typical for the development of phobias, is Victoria experienced a drop in blood sugar that produced an adverse reaction in her body that included anxiety, stress, and feelings of panic.  Victoria’s subconscious mind associated that feeling of pure panic with being on a plane. Thus, resulting in her inability to get on a plane.  Furthermore, her anticipation of having the unsavory reaction of panic again further reinforced her decision to not get on a plane again. Her subconscious create a new association of flying meaning fear, panic, and a doom. Despite consciously knowing flying is the safest way of traveling, these facts are simply being presented to the subconscious by the conscious mind, which only accounts for approximately 12% of the mind. The conscious mind deals directly with logic, reasoning, and willpower. The subconscious is much more reactive and accounts for 80% of the mind. When hearing ‘flying is the safest way to travel’ from the conscious mind, your subconscious says ‘NO WAY’ and with 88% of your mind believing this it rejects you conscious thoughts.

 Victoria had finally realized that she no longer wanted to allow her subconscious association to rule her life and wanted to realign her conscious and subconscious mind in order to get back on a plane.

Method of Treatment

With Victoria’s new association in her subconscious mind that flying meant fear, panic, and stress, the plan of treatment for her would have to deal with the following areas:

  1. Finding her motivations for wanting to fly
  2. Determine how it will feel when she is able to get back on a plane
  3. Pick a word that describes the feelings she wants to have when on a plane
  4. Deal directly with the anticipatory anxiety of flying
  5. Give her a tool that would allow her to induce a feeling of relaxation when she began to feel anxious

 Working with Victoria was done over a series of 6 sessions, completed in 2 months. Victoria and her husband were toying with the idea of going to Hawaii. However, her anticipatory fear of even buying the tickets and looking into fun activities in Hawaii cause an adverse reaction.

 Victoria’s Goal was: Get on a plane feeling calm and relaxed.

 Since Victoria felt comfortable taking buses on long trips, and buses and planes have similar boarding processes and seats, this analogy would be used during her visualizations. Getting on the plane and sitting in the seat is the same as getting on a bus. Thereby, Victoria would feel the comfort of the bus, while on a plane.

 An additional tool would be given to Victoria to use when she felt any panic, nervousness, or anxiety. The tool of pressing her two fingers together, taking in a deep breath, and exhaling the word calm would help to counteract her feelings on anxiety giving her a feeling on relaxation. The word calm was used due to its ability when said aloud you can feel the vibration of the “-alm” through the body.

 Systematic desensitization would be used while in the hypnotic state to help Victoria visualize, in a calm state of relaxation, what each step of getting on a plane would be. Each step from packing her backs, getting to the airport, going through security, to getting on and being on the plane, dealing with turbulence, and then take off and landing would be visualized.  If anxiety was noted during any step in the visualization process she would be asked to release that anxiety in order to return to a state of calm relaxation. This was done by thinking about a relaxing place, utilizing her finger press tool, and taking deep relaxing breathes. Victoria was also given options in the even she continued to feel any residual anxiety. Having the ability to have books, magazines, ability to pray, and knowing that God was with her on the flight would also aid in her knowing that she could divert her attention away from her anxiety and into a distraction. Typically these would not need to be used in the future, but they are given as options. When clients know they have options, they tend to have a greater sense of control and possibility.

It should be noted that Victoria was a client that had a greater sense of being able to physically feel her emotions than building highly detailed visualizations. We call people who have a strong ability to sense things a more kinesthetic learner rather than visual. Thus, each session utilized her strong ability to feel during the visualization as well. Being able to tailor each session to individuals is a key to successfully helping clients. By producing the relaxing state in the body and how it will feel to be calm and relaxed on the plane, it becomes a known association when the client is ready to board. Victoria and I worked each session on being able to put herself into that relaxed state quickly on her own. With practice and repetition, the stronger and stronger her sense of emotional control increase and could be applied in any situation that may cause an anxious reaction.


After six sessions, Victoria and her husband boarded a flight to Hawaii with Victoria feeling a sense of calmness throughout the flight. To date, Victoria no longer has a fear of flying and has since planned multiple trips to visit friends and family.

 Monday 12pm-8pm
Tuesday 9am-6pm
Thursday: 12-pm-8pm

Modrn Sanctuary
12 W 27th Street –  9th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Between Broadway and 6th Avenue